Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

David Cameron forgets he is not leading a Conservative Government

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Price of defeat: David Cameron is leading a Coalition not a Tory Government

Price of defeat: David Cameron is leading a Coalition not a Tory Government

The Conservative Party has started another internal war on Europe. Following one in four voters backing Ukip in the Local Elections two weeks ago, panic has gripped David Cameron’s party. Last week Cabinet members Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was called today as have former big beasts Lord Lawson, Lord Lamont and Michael Portillo, and up to 100 Tory MPs are due to table an amendment in The Queen’s Speech expressing regret that there was no bill on an EU referendum.

David Cameron, who says he is a Eurosceptic but then changed his mind once he was admitted to the Brussels club after becoming Prime Minister, even tried to use the most powerful man in the world, President Obama, to back down his rebels. It didn’t work. So today he has told the country the Conservative Party, not the Government as the Liberal Democrats are arch-Europhiles, will introduce a draft bill ensuring a Referendum on Britain’s continuing membership takes place by force of law after the General Election in 2015.

There’s only one slight problem: this draft bill isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

Firstly, and this seems to have slipped by Mr Cameron, the Conservative Party is in Coalition with the most ardent EU fanatics in Britain, the Liberal Democrats. Therefore any draft law will have to be tabled as a Private Members’ Bill not a Government Bill. Almost all Private Members’ Bill fail to get past their First reading and those that do such as Gavin Barwell’s Mental Health Discrimination Private Members’ Bill require cross-party support. Secondly, nobody but the Conservative Party (and not all Tory MPs will, especially Europhiles like Ken Clarke and hard-line Eurosceptics) and perhaps a handful of Eurosceptics on the Labour benches will support it. However, even if that was enough for a majority, which it isn’t, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said the British public should not have a referendum, period. So if he orders his own MPs to vote against the EU draft bill then only the Conservative Party (not all Tory MPs) will vote for it with the rest of Parliament voting against it so it will simply not get a majority, and therefore will not even get to Second reading.

It achieves nothing except draw our attention to the fact that David Cameron can do nothing. He lost the General Election in 2010. He does not have a majority. Basic facts, but if remembered would stop our Prime Minister looking like a fool on the world stage.

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Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

One thought on “David Cameron forgets he is not leading a Conservative Government

  1. I think you are altogether too pessimistic here Gavin. For a start, the draft Bill will undoubtedly be picked up by a backbench Tory MP. The vast majority of Tory MPs want a referendum of some sort – be it now, in 2017, a mandate referendum, or some hybrid. A referendum bill, tacitly supported by the whips and quietly given Government time, would garner a huge amount of support in the Tory Parliamentary Party.

    Assuming that you are right, the Liberal Democrats manage to stick to one of the few principles they haven’t dumped at the first hint of power, that means that Labour will hold the chance of victory. Given recent polling shows that Ed Miliband’s position on a putative referendum isn’t even popular within the Labour Party, I wouldn’t be so sure that we wouldn’t see Labour MPs voting for a referendum bill. Margaret Beckett was certainly not ruling it out, and neither was Keith Vaz.

    I think it is you who forgets that Mr Cameron is not a man entirely in charge of his own destiny, when you condemn him for not ruling like a Conservative Prime Minister. He is, by nature, a consensus politician, and he knew from day one of the coalition that he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere he wants on Britain’s membership of the EU. Why make promises that he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep? So instead he did what he could – tried to put Britain’s position forward as forcefully as he could.

    If you get 280-290 Conservative MPs supporting the bill, plus 60 Lib Dems voting against, you only need 50 or so Labour MPs to rebel on this issue and the legislation passes. Even with a Private Members Bill that could happen, especially if (like Gavin Barwell’s bill) it is given tacit and quiet support by the whips office.

    In conclusion I guess I am somewhat surprised that you don’t take Douglas Carswell’s position on this. There are those on the Tory right for whom no concession would ever be enough, short of leaving the European Union tomorrow. Even that might not be enough of a concession for some of them. Are you sure you aren’t drifting into that camp?

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